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Massawyrm Fantastic Fest: Renaissance RENAISSANCE, VENUS DROWNING, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, And ABOMINABLE!!


Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Well, Fantasticfest is simply going perfectly for me. I’m having a blast and getting very little sleep. So let’s do this, shall we?
Renaissance Only in a Sci-fi film could the French kick so much ass. All kidding aside, Renaissance is one hell of an animated science fiction film. Imagine Blade Runner meets Ghost in the Shell without the robots and give it the sheer visual originality of something like Tron and you begin to get the idea of what this film is. Every shot is gorgeous, a digital noir painting unto itself that just drops your jaw and hypnotizes you with every new angle or location. In fact, what’s remarkable is that the trailer doesn’t due this film a lick of justice. It’s bright with tons of whites – when in fact a large portion of the film is black, with the whites being the objects – faces, guns, ect. It’s a brilliant exercise in the use of negative space artistically and is liable to cause as many discussions on the look of the film as it is on the story. Renaissance is a detective story, and is pretty classic in its adherence to the conventions of classic noir. But like all good sci-fi, the mystery is much larger in scope than simply a missing girl. The end result of finding the girl just might change the world. This story builds to an amazing climax, with a ballsy, perfect ending that isn’t exactly what you’d expect. The only problem with Renaissance is that it does move a bit slow at times, and some audience members are gonna wish it were a bit tighter. Personally, I loved the slow approach to telling the story, as it gave me plenty of time to drink in and process each gorgeous frame of film. You just get lost in it, and the lack of a bam bam bam action progression actually allows you to take moments just to admire the artwork. I hope to god that this film gets a major theatrical release. I desperately want to see it again, and it’s one of those films that geeks far and wide are gonna flip over. This is an absolute MUST for any animation or sci-fi fan. Probably the most exciting sci-fi property in a long time. This has Geek Classic written over every frame of the film, and I simply cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Venus Drowning Occasionally there are those films that you can get a profound understanding of watching it – seeing every major influence on the film while being able to trace back its origins film by film. Then there are those other films that just have moments that even discussing it with a dozen other people doesn’t provide any insight into the director’s intentions at all. Venus Drowning is that odd film that manages to be both. This film CLEARLY wants to be a David Cronenberg film. It’s disgusting, sexual and just plain WEIRD. It’s the story of a woman who has lost everything she holds dear, spends some time away from her life by going to her parents apartment on the beach…then adopts some kind of mermaid fetus that she begins to obsess over. And worse than just obsession – the fetus excretes some kind of hallucinogenic goo that the woman becomes addicted to licking. But it only excretes goo when it grows and only grows after it has been near sexual activity… And I think you’re beginning to see just where this is growing. Unlike Starfish Hotel, which just felt like a Cronenberg film without looking like it was trying to be one, Venus Drowning looks like its trying to be one without actually feeling like one. This is a film unfortunately crippled by its budget – lacking the lighting package and special effects necessary to sell the mood and look that this film desperately needs. And there are scenes that come across as serious – but are really funny. At an unintentional level. Except, and here’s the weird part, no one could tell if we were supposed to laugh or not. The concept is just so god damned off-center that it’s not even remotely out of the realm of possibility that these moments are meant to be funny. It seems like something someone with a warped sense of humor would say “Okay, you know what would be hilarious? Start licking it.” It never goes completely over the top into silliness – and could very easily be the intention of the filmmaker. But really, I can’t tell and neither could anyone I saw this with. But the story is told well enough that it’s not a waste of time, at least not for those who love the more disturbing elements of Cronenberg’s style enough to enjoy an imitator. It’s honestly one of those films that will never get distribution - but if it plays at a fest near you and the idea of a woman becoming infatuated with a Mermaid fetus sounds intriguing, then it’s worth a look.
The Living and the Dead Now this film quite simply didn’t resonate with me at all. A slow, repetitive story detailing a mentally handicapped adult who goes off his meds only to terrorize his family, The Living and the Dead moves at a snails pace and has very little exposition to it whatsoever. I actually learned more about it from the synopsis in the Festival guide then I did actually watching the film. But while I was bored by the long drawn out nature of the film, I can’t hate it. It just simply isn’t my cup of tea. The reason I can’t hate it is that I admire how well put together it is. There are sequences in this film that show me absolutely what director Simon Rumley is capable of. The hallucination sequence in this alone is one of the single best moments of film that I’ve seen in the entire festival – an absolutely brilliant take on the internal monologue of a pharmaceutically induced experience. Then there are these great moments of frenetic energy that just explode every few minutes, putting you in the mind of this very sick individual. Unfortunately, the rest of the time the film just seems to meander, building up to something that I personally felt would have been better told as a short film, rather than just scraping by with Feature status. But I can certainly see exactly the type of person who would enjoy this. Anyone who is willing to be extraordinarily patient with a film and loves reveling in the way a story is being told, rather than wanting that story to be more intricate or faster paced, will definitely appreciate this. You know, the type of people who talk about the genius of the Cremaster films. These folks are gonna dig this. I just didn’t.
Abominable Wow. You know, you wouldn’t think that you could have this much fun with a movie about Bigfoot, but, as it turns out, you can. Abominable is the type of film that just makes me miss good old-fashioned drive-in theatres, because this is exactly the film that would have played in the third and final slot in the night, when the beers are running out and you just want some campy, cheesy fun. It knows exactly what it is, never tries to be anything different, but also never strays into post-modernism or gets self-referential. It’s just a bigfoot on a rampage movie. And its fun. What this most reminded me of was the work of the late ‘70’s early 80’s Corman stable, when some of the biggest names in filmmaking today were cranking out grindhouse features while trying desperately to make the best god damned grindhouse features they could. When Jonathan Demme set out to make Chained Heat, he set out to make the best women in prison movie ever made, and god damnit if didn’t. A sleazy, trashy romp that has been imitated but never duplicated. John Sayles great scripts for Piranha and Battle Beyond the Stars. James Horner’s scores for Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids from the Deep. This was a period of young up and comers giving their all to something they know isn’t gonna win them any Oscars. So they just tried to make them work for what they are. And that’s exactly the feeling Ryan Schifrin gives off with this bloody, goofy monster movie. Yes, he made Rear Window with bigfoot. And he brought in a lot of great talent to make it. Jeffery Combs, Lance Henriksen and Paul Gleason all turn in fun supporting roles and Ryan’s father, Lalo Schifrin, performs a larger than life score that actually feels much bigger than the movie, but makes all the moments work perfectly. But make no mistake – this is camp. And anyone who enjoys well made camp is gonna have a hell of a fun time with this. From the freakish Bigfoot design to some pretty incredible kills (especially for a film with this kind of budget) it’s a great little flick for anyone who wants to kick back with a couple of brews and enjoy a film with zero pretension. Abominable plays once more at the fest and comes out on DVD in a couple of weeks. Alright, if I lose any more sleep, I’m gonna look like I’m promoting a Romero film, so… Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 23, 2006, 7:33 p.m. CST

    Abominable

    by DrFarben

    is best watched inebriated

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 7:40 p.m. CST

    that french movie whose name i don't have time to spell

    by maluquiro

    sounds really cool.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 8:16 p.m. CST

    abominable sucked....

    by Jarek

    Thoroughly disappointed. The only interesting scenes are with Combs and Henricksen, and they feel like they are from another movie altogether.

  • Sept. 24, 2006, 4:47 a.m. CST

    Van Damme

    by Carl's hat

    anyone out there remember when Van Damme was gonna make "Abominable" maybe 10 years ago?

  • Sept. 24, 2006, 5:24 a.m. CST

    Comparing Renaissance with

    by Konatus

    Comparing Renaissance with Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell is absurd and entirely misleading. Sure, the makers of Renaissance may have had aspirations to capture the look and feel of Blade Runner perhaps, but that is as far as it goes. Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell both have an atmosphere and profundity that are severley lacking in this aesthetically pleasing yet vapid picture.